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Archive for January, 2016

The winter Sunday was in its latter half. With a light fog enveloping Asker in Norway, the fading daylight was falling on a little garden which the recent spate of snowfall had converted into a quaint little skating rink. Some children were honing their skating skills under the watchful but indulgent eyes of their parents. The air was fresh with a whiff of ozone, imbued with a chilly sharpness so very characteristic of Nordic winters.

From Facebook to Face-to-Face

In a cosy corner of Egon, an artistically done up restaurant near the Asker train station, a meeting of some members of the Drones Club was in progress. An Egg, a Bean and a Crumpet could be seen happily chatting with each other.

Introductions and exchange of pleasantries had got over. The conversation had already covered such wide-ranging topics as genealogy, the open-ended social milieu of Norway, the economic challenges being faced owing to the dip in oil fortunes and the state-of-art infrastructure of the country. Concern had been expressed about the global challenge of maintaining harmony and peace in these troubled times. The relevance of the Code of the Woosters to usher in a phase of sustainable peace had been discussed.

A dash of patriotism

Norway National DayThe Egg and the Bean spoke of the National Day of Norway, which is celebrated with much gaiety and fervour on the 17th of May every year. The Constitution of Norway was signed on this day in the year 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark–Norway’s devastating defeat in the Napoleonic Wars. All residents come out in their respective national dresses and participate in a parade. The King and the Queen are an integral part of the proceedings.

The Crumpet shared the details of the Indian Republic Day which honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950. The military might of the country is on full display in a parade which marches down an important thoroughfare of the capital city New Delhi. So is the social diversity which gets covered in several colourful tableaux which form a part of the parade. Indian Republic Day

The Egg and the Bean touched upon their exploits in the Norwegian military in their younger days. The Crumpet was delighted to know that the delicately nurtured had equal opportunity to join those of the so-called sterner sex in guarding the national frontiers of Norway. The Egg and the Bean were also happy to be informed that the Indian armed forces follow a similar policy.

The Drones who sought Leave of Absence

The audience would surely be wondering by now as to why there were only three members present and where the other members were. Well, a Whisky and Soda had already explained that he would be on the road attending to a critical chore which was essential to keep his body and soul together. A Pieface could not join in because he was confined to bed and was trying to nurse a viral infection with one of Jeeves’ pick-me-ups.

A Gin and Tonic had not responded, apparently because she was busy somewhere on the slopes of Galdhopiggen, tending to some injury of Pauline Stoker’s suffered by her during a skiing adventure. A Couch Potato had also not responded to the overtures, possibly owing to a lack of expertise in throwing darts, should a competition got organized.

Aurora_Borealis_and_Australis_PosterAn intellectual cove, who is one of the forty odd literarily gifted persons having had the distinction of translating Plum’s work into the Norwegian language, was discovered just after the meeting. He was said to be busy enjoying the mesmerizing display of Northern Lights somewhere in the Arctic Circle. The loss was entirely that of the members assembled.

Thus, only the Egg, the Bean and the Crumpet had trooped in.

The joy and the pall of gloom

At one stage, the emotions of the three members assembled had almost overpowered them. These called for a ready outlet. They wanted to stand up and announce that a common passion had brought together persons from two countries – Norway and India – which are as different as chalk and cheese. But the ambience of the place restrained them. They wanted to stand on the sturdy table in front of them and sing ‘Sonny Boy’ in unison. But they could not do so because customers would complain. They wanted to shout three cheers in a boisterous fashion, but couldn’t do so. The management would have looked askance and perhaps called in some rozzers eager to augment their incomes on a Sunday evening.

The pall of gloom which such severe restrictions cast on them did not last too long. Miss Postlethwaite, the efficient barmaid, soon popped up. The quiet simplicity of her costume and the devout manner in which she pulled the wine-handle brought in the requisite cheer. Soon, the pot-boy appeared with a steaming hot creamy fish soup which appeared to be coming straight from the stables of Anatole. Nose bags were duly put on and a free-flowing conversation followed.

Of Plummy affairs

The Egg brought up the innumerable qualities of Jeeves, expressing his ardent wish he could get hold of one such gentleman’s gentleman. The Bean admired the woolly headedness of Lord Emsworth and wondered if he did not possess similar qualities. The Crumpet spoke reverentially of the personality traits of independent women like Joan Valentine and Sally. The goofiness of Madeline Bassett got an honourable mention. So did the romantic nature of Mrs. Spottsworth. The Eastern connections of Captain Biggar-Biggar and his own Code of Conduct were fondly recalled.

Lessons of good health espoused by Ashe Marson came in for general praise. Several escapades of Bingo Little and Rosie M. Banks which contribute to the cause of matrimonial harmony were mentioned. The paramount importance of women having their afternoon cup of tea was analysed threadbare. The fact that not many details were available concerning the parents of Bertie Wooster came up for discussion.PGW HughLaurie-BertieWooster

An action movie on Master’s works?

Over coffee, the Egg and the Bean mentioned the authors whose work they read. The Crumpet lamented his being at the terminal stage of Wodehousitis, making him incapable of devouring anything else. The general opinion of the group was that if reading Wodehouse is escapism, then all forms of literature and fine arts could also get labelled likewise.

Movies with a Wodehousian sense of humour came up for discussion. The members present wondered if ever an action movie could be based on the works of the Master. It was doubted if any movie moghul would consider sliding down pipes to escape the fury of an aunt interesting enough. Or, for that matter, either the case of a minister facing an angry swan while perched on a roof in the midst of heavy rains, or the burning down of country cottages by conscientious boy scouts.

Spreading the virus of Wodehousitis

Norway Drones Club Jan 2016The Bean raised the sartorial standard of the meeting by wearing a Drone Club tie which is no longer in circulation. The Egg and the Crumpet are now in the market looking for benevolent souls who might like to donate theirs!

While the deliberations were on, darkness had stealthily enveloped the surroundings. Decorative lights put up by merchants hoping to clear their shelves by offering hefty January Sale discounts were imparting a soft glow to the snow on the streets. It was time to get back to the real world.

The meeting ended with much back-slapping. Hopes were expressed that more such meetings would get planned in future, thereby spreading the virus of Wodehousitis far and wide.

Notes:

  • The intellectual cove who could not be invited: Prof Johan I Borgos. He can be reached at http://www.borgos.nndata.no/Wodehouse.htm
  • The members who attended the meeting: Morten Arnesen, Jo Ingebrigt Spalder and Ashok Bhatia.
  • Should Jeeves come across this narrative, the members shall have no objection to its contents getting entered in the dreaded book maintained by the Junior Ganymede Club. Prior intimation would, however, be necessary.
  • The members deliberately chose not to pass any adverse comments about the several aunts which populate Plumsville. This ensures that Anatole’s services can be sought for future meetings of this nature.
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Wodehouse and Tennyson

What ho!

‘Burnishing the dove’ is just one of the phrases which comes under the investigative lens of Plumtopia in this post.

Enjoy!

Plumtopia

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_William_Waterhouse_The_Lady_of_Shalott.jpg Painting by John William Waterhouse depicting Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott

When Bertie Wooster is brimming with joy on a fine spring morning in The Inimitable Jeeves, he says:

‘In the spring, Jeeves, a livelier iris gleams upon the burnished dove.’

It is one of many Wodehouse references to the works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (from the poem Locksley Hall). In Right Ho, Jeeves, Aunt Dahlia finds a bound volume of Tennyson just the thing for flinging at nephews, and although Bertie claims not to read Tennyson by choice, he is familiar enough with Tennyson’s stuff to quote him often. The following lines from Tennyson’s In memoriam, for example,will be familiar to all who have followed Bertie’s adventures:

That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

Being of a non-poetic sort of disposition, I’m not qualified to speak at length on the…

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This is the most commonly found breed of CEOs. They are crazy about getting results. They plan well. They execute even better. People rank high amongst their priorities. They protect them much like a tigress would shield her cubs. But when it comes to ethics, values and systems, they could not care less. Auditors cannot be faulted for labelling them as arsonists.

Managements love them. The efficient ones amongst their team members adore them. The sloppy ones dread them. Their Concern for Production is invariably high. They are often sharp when it comes to adapting newer technologies in the organization’s processes. Their Concern for People is also high. They can be found praising their people in public while ruthlessly ticking them off in private.

However, when it comes to Concern for Ethics, they rank very poorly. Their value systems are driven by commercial goals alone. Systems and procedures are merely the dust beneath their chariot wheels, leaving Finance honchos as well as auditors aghast and exasperated.

In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 9,9,1.X Y Z upgraded

Under them, short-term and medium-term goals get achieved. In their heydays, the Goddess of Success courts them. But harsh arrows and slings of an unforgiving commercial world bring about a day when their Guardian Angels are no longer in a benevolent mood. Regulatory agencies catch up with them and demand their pound of flesh. They get trapped in the intricate web of deceit, evasion and non-compliance they have woven around themselves. Brand image of the organization takes a hit. Competitors swiftly move in to occupy the mind-space of customers. Market valuations drop. Stakeholders and employees start seeking greener pastures.

Gradually, they start getting transformed into CEOs whom we could classify as Charmless Charlies.

A deeper malaise

A charitable way of looking at Arsonist Achiever CEOs would be to say that they happen to be the product of a system which thrives on greed and avarice. When they get results by using unfair means, managements feign to be in a state of blissful ignorance.

In general, the business world does suffer from this omnipresent affliction. When it comes to perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting stakeholders, human ingenuity has never been found wanting.

If America had Enron, Lehman Brothers and Tyco, UK had Barclays. If Norway had Nortel, Portugal had Banco Espirito Santo. If Switzerland had UBS, India had Satyam and Kingfisher Airlines. Germany has just had Volkswagen.

No specific industry could lay an exclusive claim on such man-made disasters. Be it banking, insurance, mining, automobiles, energy, commodities, IT or real estate, all have set examples of devious plans to deceive the gullible stakeholders.

Human greed and avarice are obviously the root cause. The sheer pleasure derived by a minority in making some extra gains at the cost of a silent majority apparently has a sense of gratification which surpasses all else.

CEOs of the kind discussed here symbolize this deeper malaise. However, this does not mean that their acts of omission are worthy of being condoned. Apparently, there is a flaw in their innate character – they accept cheating as a way of life.

Correcting the myopic vision

What is it that makes a business owner or a CEO to put his conscience to sleep and take a decision which could impact the whole organization a few years down the road?

There could be several factors at work here. A trade-off between extraordinary gains in sight and the risks involved. A hope and a prayer that a deviation would never get caught. A major investment that cannot be written off merely to make a process legally compliant. A gut feel that the regulatory agencies are invariably open to manipulation. The need for a tight squeeze on costs which makes them shift a part of their operations to distant but cheaper pastures, at times ignoring the interests of the local community. The option of using speed money to get the necessary approvals from concerned government agencies.

More often than not, continued success in meeting business goals proves to be their undoing. Arrogance creeps in. Self-confidence brims over. Few Yes-men around them add fuel to the fire. In their relentless pursuit of business results, they develop a myopic vision. Everything else becomes the last priority.

Smarter ones, however, would take a longer view of things. They would have a 6/6 vision. Their decision-making models would invariably take into consideration the moral and the ethical aspects of a situation at hand.

Yet another solution could be to support them with a Conscience Keeper!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos)

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One of the relatively rare species of CEOs is that of the Sponge Comforters. These are hapless souls who are gifted with too much of the Milk of Human Kindness sloshing about within them. They happen to be compassionate by nature. People are their first priority. It is easier to persuade them to buy excuses.

Their key strength is their Concern for People. In their value paradigm, Concern for Production and Concern for Ethics take a back seat. In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they happen to be in the 1,9,1 slot.X Y Z upgraded

Their people just love them. The loyalty they command is often exemplary. Even though the feudal spirit prevails, their style of functioning is democratic in nature. People working with them are invariably happier. Work gets done in a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere. Physical activity does not get confused with efficiency. Their planning is excellent. Their execution is often tardy.

Such CEOs add value to their organizations by being great ‘Demo Versions’. They handle Public Relations with much aplomb. They are the first contact for professionals who aspire to make a career with the organization.

This breed thrives in an organization where the top boss happens to be unduly aggressive by nature. Employees often face an identity crisis. The CEOs offer a crying shoulder to those who feel harassed and victimized. After meeting them, a depressed employee entertaining suicidal thoughts could come back revived and invigorated – much like a watered plant. They are supreme comforters who are forever ready with a sponge, nay, even a bucket and a towel, to wipe off the tears of those who rush to them for solace.

Another designation that fits them is that of a Chief Listening Officer.

Featured Image -- 2827Their ability to convince top performers to not to seek greener pastures at the drop of a hat is unparalleled. So is their proficiency in the realm of grooming and mentoring.

Seniors from the realm of HR, who have decided to come out of their comfort zones and have started grasping the nuances of the core business process of the organization, could gradually evolve into Sponge Comforter CEOs. Externally, they sound like communists. Internally, they happen to be true blue capitalists.

Managements are often sceptical about such CEOs. To ensure that results keep coming in, they get some tough-as-nails managers to support them. Or, they are made to handle portfolios which keep them at an arm’s length from marketing and production.

Managements who excel at running their businesses without much regard for the norms of statutory compliance are desperately on the lookout for this species of CEOs. Members of this breed discharge their obligations with a misplaced sense of loyalty, often getting lynched in the process. An acrimonious parting of ways follows.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers)

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The quiet evening saw the silver rays of moonshine descending upon Blandings Castle. The soft and silvery glow dimly lit up its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens and its outhouses. The frenzied revelries of Christmas were another month away. Peace prevailed. Tranquillity ruled.

Blandings castle-enIn the cozy smoking room of Blandings Castle, two persons could be sighted. In the big chair nearest to the door, one could see the Earl of Emsworth, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Plumsville. He had a cigar in his mouth and a weak highball at his side. His fuzzy brain was softly whispering in his ears that life could not get any better. His son, Hon. Freddie, was happily busy in America, executing his marketing plans for Donaldson’s Dog-Joy Biscuits. Lady Constance Keeble was off to some South American countries on a charity drive for a few more weeks. He was his own boss.

Since he had assumed charge as a titular head of Plumsville, the only interruptions to his leisurely strolls through the gardens came in the form of visiting dignitaries. Earlier in the day, a Japanese delegation had called upon him. They had come to invite him to visit their country. He vaguely remembered that they had hoped that a technical collaboration could come about between the two nations – something to do with the need for their citizens to learn to laugh more and worry less.

Next to him sat a young man whose eyes, glittering through rimless spectacles, were concentrated on the dimly lit screen of a tablet PC. Rupert Baxter, the President’s invaluable secretary, was in the habit of relaxing his busy brain by answering some inane mails received from the President’s fans all over the world. More often than not, these pertained to either requests for an appointment for taking a selfie with the Empress, or enquiries regarding some children wanting to attend the upcoming Carnival.

The President sat and smoked, and sipped and smoked again, at peace with all the world. His mind was as nearly blank as that of a child who, while being forced to sit in the classroom, finds the idle swaying of plants just outside the window more alluring. The hand that was not holding the cigar was at rest in his trousers pocket. The fingers of it fumbled idly with a fairly large-sized object which appeared to be a folded letter of some kind.

In due course of time, it dawned upon the President’s mind that this large-sized letter was not familiar. A part of his mind mildly protested. What was the use of having a so-called efficient secretary if a letter were to be found in his trouser pockets? He yielded to a growing curiosity and drew it out. He examined it. It appeared to be an official invitation of some kind. A detailed letter, with an insignia depicting three lions embossed on the top. It touched no chord in him. He looked at it with amiable distaste.

“Now how in the world did that get there?” he said.

Rupert Baxter looked up from his tablet PC.

“Hon’ble President?”

“I have found this curious looking letter in my pocket, Baxter. I was wondering how it got there.”

He handed the thing to his secretary. Rupert Baxter gasped.

“So, here it is!” he cried. “Superb!”

Lord Emsworth looked at him inquiringly.

“It is the invitation from India, sir. Just today morning, I was wondering where it was. Because we have to respond to it quickly. A true honour, and yet another feather in your cap!”

“Is it? But is the event not already over, Baxter?”

“No, Mr President. It is around eight weeks away.”

“Eight weeks away, you say? But she just one the prize once again, right?”

“What are you referring to, Mr President?”

“Well…er…did you not mention an invitation for the Empress to participate in an upcoming international event? She has just been through one and her nerves are just beginning to relax after the ordeal.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr President. Perhaps you refer to our national pride, the Empress. I was instead alluding to the call received by us some time back from the Prime Minister’s Office in India. They had said that they would consider it a great honour for you to be the Chief Guest at their next Republic Day Parade. You had conveyed your positive inclination to do so over telephone, if you would remember. They had then sent this official invitation.”

Lord Emsworth shook his head. “I do not remember this, Baxter. India, you say? Is it not the country of snake charmers and elephants? What will I do there?”

“Mr President, India is a fast upcoming country. You have the world’s greatest fan following there. Many of Plumsville’s products have huge potential there. Our Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies would be delighted to have access to that market. Every year, on January 26, they celebrate their Republic Day. It is their custom to invite a Head of State as a Chief Guest at the Parade. This time, they have invited you. It is a great honour.”

“Baxter, I fail to understand this. Is India not a poor country? Why would they be interested in inviting someone from Plumsville? We are not a super power. Nor do we have oil reserves at our command. I believe all countries deal with each other only so they might enjoy better energy security. From the view-point of religious dogmas, you know that we are neutral. I fail to understand this invitation.”

“Mr. President, Plumsville is unique in the sense that it is undeniably rich in good, clean, non-vindictive humour. Its denizens are experts at solving complex problems using some simple but out-of-the-box schemes which might sound somewhat goofy to lesser mortals of the world. We have erudite butlers, absent-minded earls and youngsters who spend their time pleasing the delicately nurtured in their lives by pinching policemen’s helmets, stealing cats and performing convoluted acts of petty larceny. When it comes to chivalry, they set a gold standard. Even married members of the males of the species go to extra lengths to ensure that the dove of peace keeps hovering above their home and hearth. They could be faulted for risking three months’ allowance on a sporting adventure, but they make prompt amends. They ensure that their wives never fail to get their afternoon cup of tea. Our divorce rates are insignificant. Our kids are a happy lot, pampered as they are by their doting parents.”

A vague memory stirred the fuzzy brain of Lord Emsworth.

“Baxter, you forget that we recently heard some reports about kids burning down cottages and misbehaving with guest speakers by simply giggling and staring at the poor souls. Er…, I forget the names, but you would surely remember the delegation of school principals which made a presentation on the Goofiness Rankings of their wards recently?”

“Sir, kids will be kids. Some allowance will need to be made for their rogue behaviour. Our own family is no exception to this.”

Lord Emsworth shuddered. He frowned. He looked sharply at his secretary.

“Baxter, I thought you were recounting to me the unique things that Plumsville offers to humanity in general?”

“My apologies for the digression, Mr. President. Our citizens are indeed unique. Their codes of conduct are centred round helping their pals, come what may. They bow to the merest whims and fancies of their tyrannical aunts. Compared to the better known countries, we have abundant supplies of the milk of human kindness. Our crime rate is zero and is a matter of envy amongst the so-called super powers. Our denizens are free from an affliction known as depression. No one commits a suicide. Many research institutes the world over are keen to get to the depth of these unique traits of our supremely contented and joyful citizens. Even our relatively poorer citizens go about their lives smilingly. It is widely known that if not actually disgruntled, they are far from being gruntled. We are the only country on our planet which has no boundaries. People need no passports and visas to visit us. All they need is a sense of humour.”

“That does make some sense. Yet, what leaves me baffled is the keen attention the Indians shower on us. Does this not sound a bit puzzling to you, Baxter?”

“In a way, it is. Only around ten percent of their population is familiar with the Queen’s language. But they have a large population, next only to that of China. You may know that for a better part of two centuries, Indians were ruled by the dispensable siblings of the British nobility. Perhaps they still carry a feeling of awe and respect for us. Perhaps the idea of acquiring a linguistic skill and being on an equal footing with their erstwhile ruler appeals to them. I believe that by keeping a keen eye on the escapades of our citizenry, at a conscious level, they are temporarily relieved of the pain of their poverty, misery and lack of quality infrastructure and civic services. At a subconscious level, I suspect this is their style of fighting the ghosts of imperialism while fuelling their own sense of nationalism. Whatever the reason, they appear to be dead serious about deepening their engagement with our unique Republic.”

“Bless my soul!” Lord Emsworth beamed. “Your analysis is extremely interesting, Baxter. I recall having heard that they had unrest in India because its inhabitants used to eat only an occasional handful of rice.”

“But they had a great leader who put them on the path of civil disobedience.”

A distant memory came back to Lord Emsworth’s foggy brain.

“Yes, was Mahatma Gandhi not his name? I am told he was a person of strict dietary habits and never sat down to a good juicy steak. Had he done so, and then followed it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton, world history would perhaps have been different.”

“I am not qualified enough to comment upon this, Mr President.”

Rashtrapati Bahavan“Baxter, one has heard so much of the princely states of India. I wonder if I could get to meet any of the princes or kings, if I do decide to make the trip.”

“The princes and kings are long since gone. They do have rich businessmen, politicians and landowners who rule the roost. You will surely get to meet quite a few of them. In fact, you would be enjoying the hospitality of the President of India. His palace is said to be having 340 rooms. It also has an excellent garden boasting of many exotic flowers. You would surely relish a saunter down the famous Mughal Gardens.”

Lord Emsworth blossomed like a watered flower.

“Flowers?! That does sound very interesting. Wonder if they would have Damasks and Agryshires there?”

“I doubt if their tropical climate is favourable to such flowers. But I have been told that they have a great variety of flowers there. Especially, roses. Even orchids.”

“One has also heard so much of the hospitality of Indians. How exceedingly kind of them to have thought of us, Baxter. By the way, would you have an idea as to what my engagements there would be like?”

“They have a military parade where you shall be the Chief Guest. Then there would be a couple of meetings. The President of India would host a banquet in the evening. Two days after the main parade, they also have a great ceremony – ‘Beating the Retreat’. I believe you would not be expected to attend the same.”

“Military parade, you say, Baxter?”, Lord Emsworth squirmed in his seat.

“Besides military hardware and soldiers walking in perfect tandem, they also have cultural tableaux, Mr. President. I understand that they are planning an extensive coverage of iconic Plumsville locations and characters this year.”

“I cannot imagine what they would have planned. Would you have a clue, Baxter?”

“Yes, Mr President. The leading one would be that of the Empress of Blandings. Then there would be ones depicting the Senior Conservative Club and the Drones Club. A model of our Prime Minister Mr Rupert Psmith, shown working in a bank, would be there. This would make people appreciate his humble origins and also enthuse them to open bank accounts. This might assist the Government there to fulfil its goals of financial inclusion. Scenes from the life of our Minister of Milk of Human Kindness, Mr Bertie Wooster, would be recreated. These would demonstrate the premium we place on chivalry. These would be designed to promote the cause of gender equity. Some youth might even follow his example and decide to remain bachelors. The Government of India believes this would help them in population control.”

“This does sound ingenious, Baxter. One would feel happy at having helped others to achieve their goals. What else would they be covering?”

“Yes. Our Minister of International Affairs, Mr Reginald Jeeves, would feature in one of the tableaux. The Bingeese – I allude to Mr Bingo Little and his wife Mrs Rosie M Banks – shall be featured to demonstrate our values in matrimonial harmony. One will depict a full-scale model of a silver cow-creamer. Yet another will depict some of the better known animals and pets we have – Potato Chip, McIntosh, Bartholomew, Poppet, Tabby,  Augustus and the like. There are quite a few others which, I am sure, you would enjoy.”

“This would certainly be an experience I would treasure. You also mentioned some official talks, Baxter?”

“Yes. There will be a delegation accompanying you to attend to those details. You may get to inaugurate an Indian Institute of Chivalry, so they might address the challenge of mistreatment of the delicately nurtured more effectively. If all goes well, you may also lay the foundation stone of a manufacturing complex, to be set up in technical collaboration with our Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies.”happy-republic-day

“Well, quite a busy schedule, as I can see. Hope I shall get enough time for some rest and recuperation. Possibly, some palatable food as well.”

“I shall personally attend to the matter. Indian dishes and curries are now a hot favourite all over the world. Thanks to your active lifestyle, your stomach lining is in good shape, Mr President. I am sure you would relish them.”

From afar came the silver booming of a gong. Lord Emsworth rose.

“Baxter, I daresay you pay too much attention to food. I still remember the occasion when you allowed your passion for midnight snacks to take precedence over your bounden duties. Our museum lost a precious scarab that way.”

Baxter stood up and shuffled his feet.

“Several times have I tried to explain the matter………”

Lord Emsworth drew himself up to his full height.

“No need. I certainly appreciate the invitation received, though I must confess that from a purely practical standpoint it leaves me a little cold. I wonder if the Indians are capable of looking after her dietary needs.”

Baxter looked up in surprise. “The Empress?”

“Of course. Do you think we could be so careless as to leave her here? Especially, when the next Shropshire Agricultural Show is coming up in a few months’ time?”

“But George Cyril Wellbeloved would be back on duty in the first week of January, Mr President. You need not be anxious on that account.”

“Do you think she will be getting fed as per the Wolff-Lehmann feeding standards, Baxter?”

“I am certain, Mr President.”

“If so, shall we go ahead with the trip? Have you consulted Mr. Psmith?”

“Yes, sir. He is positive about it. In fact, he plans to meet you early next week, so as to be able to brief you about the future plans he has for us to deepen our engagement with India.”

Lord Emsworth inched towards the door.

“Right, Baxter, do call him over. Let us go ahead with this.”

“Thank you, Mr President. I shall initiate the official process without further delay.”

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/invitation-to-a-swearing-in-ceremony-at-blandings-castle

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/a-goofy-career-opportunity-for-marketing-professionals

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/the-gallery-of-rogue-kids-in-plumsville)

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One of the professional hazards CEOs face is that of giving in to relentless pressure and becoming Road Rollers. Quarterly targets have to be necessarily met. Stakeholders have to be kept happy. Auditors have to be kept in good humour. Regulatory agencies have to be held at an arm’s length. Star performers have to be kept excited.

Amidst all this razzmatazz, CEOs run the risk of caring about results alone. They would achieve targets by ruthlessly crushing anything that comes in their way. Concern for Production gets the top priority. Concern for People takes a back seat. Concern for Ethics gets dumped. In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they end up being slotted at 9,1,1.X Y Z upgraded

Such heartless hard task masters end up neglecting even the genuine needs of their team members. Employees have to be dealt with in a stern manner. Shorter working hours are held to be injurious to employee’s health. Trade unions have to be manipulated. Signs of a white-collar mutiny, if any, are to be handled severely. People are like spare parts in a machine, simply to be replaced at the first signs of trouble.

In their jaundiced view, someone asking for some time off to ensure her kid makes a successful bid to enter a prestigious academic institution simply lacks commitment to organizational goals. A person wanting to leave office one hour early so as to be able to celebrate her marriage anniversary is merely offering an excuse to shirk her responsibility.

In the pursuit of excellence on the bourses, accounting norms evolve to loftier levels. Window dressing of financial information becomes the norm. Customer billings get preponed and get squeezed into the last few days of each month. Hapless auditors are kept busy highlighting Receivables and Customer Returns which get deftly swept under the carpet. Auditors keen on not losing a prestigious client easily get persuaded to fall in line.

Since the entire focus is on quarterly guidelines being exceeded, the organization suffers from Corporate Myopia. Vision Statements remain a set of pious intentions and can be seen only where these belong – on office walls and on display shelves.

When it comes to complying with a plethora of rules and regulations, the regulatory agencies have to be simply ‘managed’. Records need to be fudged, wherever necessary. Testing software and instrumentation has to be rigged, so as to show results within the legal parameters. Liaison officers need to be appointed so the inspectors could be kept in good humour. Government seniors have to be molly cuddled, so that they look the other way when violations are brought to their attention. Lobbying for suitable changes in government policy invariably assumes top priority.

When Road Rollers rule the roost for a long time, organizations often end up sitting on a dormant volcano which could erupt any time. Attrition rates gallop. Key performers get burnt out. People lack focus and work merely to show off. A sense of lethargy pervades. The percentage of employees of the Y-kind plummets. Managements concerned about lack of employee morale and motivation keep calling in experts to cheer up team members, with minimal results. MICROMANAGING

Often, micro-managing skills are applauded. Thus, grooming of future leaders assumes a lower priority. This leads to an absence of succession planning.

When faced with smarter government agencies who either sense a loss of public revenue or a scandal which might sully the image of the political party in power, such CEOs often invite greater trouble for their organizations. In one stroke, financial gains made over several years get wiped out. The organization’s brand image gets sullied.

Most of the times, such CEOs behave like pilots about to press the eject button in their cockpits. However, their reputation precedes them. Parachuting down to greener pastures becomes a challenge.

Have you ever had the good fortune of working with a Road Roller CEO? If so, and if you survived for a long duration, sincere appreciation is in order. You have already developed nerves of chilled steel, a trait so very essential to success in business. What you need now perhaps is a crash course to boost your Emotional and Spiritual Quotients, so your organization and your team members can breathe easy!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found here.

{Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies}

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Ode to Old Age

Here is an interesting composition on old age from Mr Subbarayan Subbaraman, who has kindly agreed for it to be posted here.

Just a line to say I’m living

That I’m not among the dead

Though I’m getting more forgetul

And all mixed up in my head.

I got used to my arthritis

To my dentures I’m resigned

I can manage my bifocals

But, dear God, I miss my mind!

 

For sometimes I can’t remember

When I stand at the foot of the stairs

If I must go up for something

Or have I just come down from there?

And before the fridge so often

My poor mind is filled with doubt

Have I put some food away

Or have I come to take something out?

 

And there’s a time, when it is dark

I stop and hold my head

I don’t know if I’m retiring

Or am I getting out of bed?

So, if it is my turn to write to you

There’s no need of getting sore,

I may think that I have written

And don’t want to be a bore,

So, remember that I love you

and wish that you were near

But now it’s nearly mail time

So must say ‘goodbye, dear’.

 

Here I stand before the mail box

With a face so very red

Instead of mailing you my letter

I went and opened it, instead!

{This poem has been quoted by Mr. M.V. Kamath in his book , ‘A reporter at large’ (pages 753-54)}

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/when-age-is-only-a-number)

 

 

 

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